Demographer slams overdevelopment in Melbourne - Video and text
Professor Bob Birrell  calls for better planning to stop over-development, sustainable population policy reform at a Sustainable Australia Party event. "Net overseas immigration is completely dominating the figures." The politicians tell us, "We just have to get used to it, and the way we're going to deal with it is to throw literally billions at it ... and ... eliminate suburbia." "That's what they say. But rezoning and high density doesn't actually work. The houses are too expensive. The reason is site costs. The more people the more demand for housing. If you increase the opportunity for housing on the same site, the site values go up higher.... It doesn't work." "Nor does the high rise 'solution'. You know there are tens of thousands of these being completed. When we checked the 2016 census, what we found was, that in the two areas of greatest density, CBD and South bank, only 5% of all those appartments were occupied by families with children. Well, what are we going to do about it? We have to deal with high NOM (Net Overseas Migration), it's not inevitable - and this is the key point. The high levels of NOM at present are due to government policy or government non-policy. They are a deliberate consequence of government policy. Not inevitable. For example, overseas students. It is a fact that the biggest source of growth in Net Overseas Migration in Melbourne is overseas students. There are more overseas students coming in on a student's visa each year than are leaving holding a student's visa. Okay, we don't object to students coming here for an education. the problem is that, once they get here and complete their education, they can stay on, more or less forever. Our governments have deliberately encouraged them to do so. By providing, as of right, a two year stay here, with full work rights - even if your degree is in cultural studies - and, when you've done that, you can get another student visa. Or you can become a tourist, or you can get a working holiday visa, or you can apply for a 457 temporary visa. Or you can apply for a permanent entry visa. And, as a consequence, a big chunk of overseas students are just spinning out ... over the years. So, we can change that and that would have a major impact. There are many other areas we could change. I'll just give you one or two to finish, which you may not know about. You've probably heard a lot about 'regional policy' - 'maybe we'll put people in the bush, rather than let them stay in Melbourne or Sydney. Well, currently, there's a program near 30,000 visas strong for state and regional sponsorship. The problem is that these visas do not require people to actually stay in the states or regions that sponsor them. They very quickly move off and they end up in Sydney or Melbourne. Or, consider this, and I'll finish on this note, consider the policy on spouses. [...] what happens in Australia is that you can sponsor a spouse at the age of 18 and you do not have to show that you have a job or an income which will enable you to sustain that spouse. I'm not kidding you. This is the situation. Compare that with Europe. Most countries now, you've got to be at least 22 before you sponsor a spouse, and you've got to prove that you have the funds to support that spouse. I could go on. There is massive potential to bring down the numbers. [...] We have to get the numbers down if we are really coming to grips with Melbourne's crisis of overdevelopment. I'll just leave you with one final thought, and that is that at least public opinion is moving in the right direction. [refers to TAPRIS study] Some 54 % of voters now believe that immigration should be reduced. The polls this year are putting the numbers in the 60%, so the potential is there. May I wish [Sustainable Australia Party] the best in mobilising it."
 Although Bob Birrell's publications in demography are very well known, his qualifications are much greater: Bob Birrell (PhD Princeton – Sociology) was Reader in Sociology and the founding director of the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University. He was the joint editor of the demographic journal People and Place (with Katharine Betts) from 1993 to 2010. His appointment with Monash University finished in 2014. He has been a consultant and advisor to successive Australian governments on immigration policy, most recently as part of Coalition Government’s Evaluation of the General Skilled Migration Categories, published in 2006. His research covers Australian history (A Nation of Our Own – Longman 2005), Australian education policy, urban affairs and immigration practice and policy. His most recent international publications include, ‘Media Effects and Immigration Policy in Australia,’ in Gary Freeman, et al., Eds, Immigration and Public Opinion in Liberal Democracies, Routledge, 2013 and ‘Migration: the Australian experience,’ in Sasha Bangalay and Delphine Nakache, Eds, Immigration Regulation in Federal States, Springer, 2014.